Shelton, like many other towns in southwestern Connecticut, often seems to have relentless pressure to keep up appearances. This could extend to our homes, possessions, jobs, and most importantly, the perfect family.
But sometimes behind that family portrait is a secret that some would rather keep than show a fracture in that elusive perfection. Sometimes protecting that secret seems worth the risk of one’s own safety — sometimes it’s even worth risking one’s own life.
There’s a reason domestic violence remains one of the most under-reported crimes against women.
Misguided shame, guilt and stigma
Often, it can carry with it a shame or a guilt that is not associated with other crimes. Especially when we are faced with the fear of public scrutiny.
What will people think if they see we have problems? What will they say behind my back? What they do when they see me in the supermarket? Will they turn away?
In addition to the fears of social stigma, domestic violence can make the victim feel responsible for keeping a family intact, for protecting a loved one, for maintaining a reputation in the community, and defending professional integrity — despite the situation not being of their making.
It also is a crime that can happen repeatedly — because of its nature. Because it is easier to escape a stranger than a person you have a history with, a person you have children with — a person you love, and turn to in your most terrible hours for stability.
It is much harder not to forgive that person, and even harder to run.
Open dialogue and support
That is why no matter what the truth of the current incident is, it serves as a reminder that we need to do more to help domestic violence victims. We need to keep an open dialogue about it. And we need to support our friends and family who might go through it and ask hard questions if they arise.
As a society we need to support the victims of domestic violence. We need to tell them it’s OK to talk about it. We need to make sure the women — or men — know we are not here to judge. Because victims of domestic violence should never be made to feel ashamed.
Victims of domestic violence have nothing — nothing — to be ashamed of.
Don’t just stand by
If you need help, or someone you know does, do not be afraid to seek help. If we are outsider looking in, we may feel its not our place to interfere, or that we want to save the family from embarrassment.
But we need to think about the very real consequences of good people standing by, silently, when we see something wrong.
Please call the Domestic Violence Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline at 888-774-2900.
What do you have to lose by calling? More importantly — what do you have to lose if you don’t?